Sanctions violations to be added to the list of European Union (EU) crimes

30 November 2022
Law Messenger
On 25 May 2022, the European Commission tabled a proposal on extending the list of EU crimes. Specifically, it was proposed that violations of EU sanctions should be included in the list of EU crimes. It is stated in the Fourth Progress Report on the Implementation of the EU Security Union Strategy that the proposal is designed to ensure that the assets of sanctioned persons can be confiscated[1].
On 28 November 2022, the EU Council[2] unanimously adopted a decision[3] to add violations of EU sanctions to the list of EU crimes.

According to the EU’s press release[4], the measure is the first of two steps designed to:

  • ensure a similar degree of sanctions enforcement throughout the EU;
  • deter attempts to circumvent or violate EU measures.

We should point out that the EU’s official publications do not set out criteria defining perpetrators or specific actions in breach of sanctions that would be characterised as crimes at EU level. As we understand it, those criteria may subsequently be determined by individual EU member states through their own national legislation. Indeed, some EU states already classify sanctions violations as a crime (for example, France, Cyprus and Germany).

EU member states currently take different views of what constitutes a violation of restrictive measures and what penalties should be applied in the event of violation. EU officials believe that the lack of a uniform approach could potentially allow sanctioned persons to continue accessing their frozen assets, thereby facilitating the circumvention of sanction restrictions.

Thus, the introduction of an EU-wide policy of criminalising sanctions violations in all EU member states is a logical consequence of the lengthy discussions that have been taking place in EU institutions and bodies since May 2022.

The European Commission is expected to present a proposal for a directive to the EU Council and the European Parliament. The directive will include a set of rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and penalties for the violation of EU sanctions. The draft directive will then be discussed and adopted by the EU Council and the European Parliament[5].

The EU is also actively working on a ninth package of sanctions against the Russian Federation[6].

  • Natalia Aristova

    Associate Partner

    Law Group
  • Anna Evlanova
    Law Group
  • Aleksandr Danilovich
    Law Group
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